Cause I’m Radioactive!

Poked, prodded, stuck, bled, shaved, scraped, patched, shot up, scanned, pushed, run to death. A night on Sixth Street? An evening in the LAPD hotel? A bad time in a Tijuana brothel? Nope.

I had my stress test yesterday.

I went in for my 1pm appointment at a local cardiovascular specialist office for my nuclear stress test. In a nutshell, this kind of test involves radioactive dyes and a little bit of exercise. They brought me in, shot me up with a radioactive isotope drug (the gamma-ray dosage was much less than a typical X-ray) which binds to my heart muscles. After a 30-minute break, to give the drug enough time to find my heart, where I read some angry literary bitterness from Henry Rollins, I was laid down on a sensor machine and slid into this set of rings which contained these huge boxes loaded with sensors. I had to get really comfy, because for the next 15 minutes I had to remain motionless. Thankfully, it was over sooner than I had thought.

After the scan, I went to another room where my chest was shaved in patches with one of those single-use razors they love to use in operating rooms (the guy was kinda rough). Then he swabbed the shaved patches with rubbing alcohol and followed it up with something resembling 400-grit sandpaper. Oouuuch. Apparently this was to make my skin completely conductive for the ton of sensor patches that were stuck on me. (Regardless of all the shaving, some hair was *still* pulled when those were taken off.) I was wired up to the EKG machine, everything worked and checked out, then the doctor came in to monitor the machine while I worked out on the treadmill.

Clunk! “Ooh, that wasn’t a good sound,” said the Doc. The first treadmill we tried was broken. Crap. I had to be taken to another room and get wired up again for a different treadmill. :sighs: At least this corner room had a much better view of the scene around the office tower.

The treadmill started out at 1.7 mph at a 10% incline. That was equivalent to a decent walk down the street, and this stage lasted for about four minutes. Then the treadmill got a little more difficult – it sped up and the incline stepped up to 12.5% grade. This went on for two more “stages” where by the time my heartrate reached the target of 160 beats per minute I was running up a serious hill. It was at that point that the doc injected me with a final dose of isotope and needed me to run for one more minute. This is to make sure the drug gets a good circulation through my bloodstream.

Off the treadmill, the physician’s assistant removed all but three of the EKG pads and took the IV out of my arm. I was then sent into the break room to eat the high-fat lunch I was told to bring, which I did gladly and with much gusto after having to fast for six hours before this test. Mmmm. Reheated Sonic burger and tots.

After lunch, I had to lay down on the sensor again, this time for a shorter session. The EKG was attached, I was slid into the rings, and this time I managed to lay with my head turned enough to see the computer monitor. What I saw was pretty interesting – after every small motion of the sensors around my chest, the computer would accumulate more scans together into a final image for that angle. When the sensors moved again, the process repeated. It was really interesting seeing inside my chest; looked kind of like a ghostly glow shot with a security cam in low light. And it doesn’t matter that I’m at a cardiology specialist’s office, my geekhood still rides high because as I’m looking at the scanner’s monitor I noticed that according to the look of the “widgets” on the graphical interface the computer was running Gnome on some version of X-Windows (Linux or Unix) or plain-ol’ Microsoft Windows using a Gnome widget library. Heh.

When the second test was done, the docs helped me up, disconnected me from the machine, shook my hand and told me to expect a call later this week for the interpretation. From everything I heard and gathered, my heart was acting normally for them. Everything was normal. But the interpretation of the many EKG readings while under stress and while at rest, and the interpretation of the images from my chest, may tell the doctors something different. I dunno.

Last night I took some pleasure in explaining to my buddies that I was full of gamma-ray radiation. Should’ve seen the looks and the backpedalling.

Time to get ready for work. Later.

Published by Shawn

He's just this guy, you know?